Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: So Happy I'm Flinging Poo

...And that's even more fun than it sounds.

A couple weeks ago I got to see the cover art for my midgrade novel CHAINED, which comes out next May, and I've been dying to share it with everyone. I mean really, everyone. I had to stop myself from running up to strangers at the gas station to show them the picture on my phone.

I was not-so-patiently waiting for word from the publisher that I could go ahead and show the cover, and then I got home Tuesday afternoon to find these guys on the front porch:

Well, hello there
Aren't they gorgeous? Until those advance copies arrived I didn't know what the tagline on the cover would be; if you can't see it in the picture, it reads "Deep in the jungle, a young elephant keeper plots an escape from a dangerous circus."

Here's a picture of the cover art itself--this is from before the tagline was added, but it shows the colors more clearly:

I might have hugged it a few times. The awesome people at MacMillan asked the super-talented Chris Sheban to do the cover illustration. When I first saw the many rough sketches Chris sent of his ideas for the cover, I knew I'd be thrilled with the result.

And here's the back!

Nice close-up of the elephant's sweet face. And the tagline there looked familiar--back when I was querying agents, the book description in the query letter ended with "...the two friends discover the bond that links them together is stronger than any shackle, lock, or chain."

Now for even more fun stuff. Before I had a cover, I made some business card bookmarks using card stock made from elephant poop.

Who knew elephant poop could be so adorable? And if you get some of these bookmarks and your friends don't believe you when you tell them what they're made of, well there it is, labeled on the back:

And as soon as I got the cover art I ordered some stickers and miniature business cards from Moo:

The Moo cards are about half the size of a business card & make cute little bookmarks

Also I made bookplates on Office Depot's website by uploading the book cover to one side of a blank mailing label:

Here's where I totally steal an idea from Sarah Prineas, because I loved the contest she did for Anne Nesbet's CABINET OF EARTHS cover reveal. So, if you'd like to win some of the stuff I've shown here, plus a a blank journal made of elephant poop paper or an advance copy of CHAINED, leave a comment and mention a page number from 3 to 242; I'll reply with a line from that page of the book. Include your email address too so I can notify you if you win. When the contest ends next Thursday, I'll randomly pick two winners. (U.S. addresses only).

Here's package 1, with two of the handmade elephant poop bookmarks, one elephant poop bookmark from Rainbow Gifts, three signed bookplates, two cover art stickers, two Moo cards, and a blank journal made of elephant poop paper from

The paper in the blank journal is a little rough for writing on (must be all that hay), but I think it'd make a great scrapbook. The silver square on the front is a metal elephant medallion. The handmade bookmarks might be different colors than those pictured here, but I have a wide variety of card stock, so I can probably make some using your favorite colors.

And pack 2, with one of the Rainbow Gifts bookmarks, three of the handmade bookmarks, two Moo cards, three signed bookplates, two cover art stickers, and a signed ARC of CHAINED:

Quick rules for entering again: leave a page number from 3-242 in the comments. Contest ends Thursday, November 3rd at 11:59 PM.

Good luck! Hope you all love the cover as much as I do.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to Use Twitter In A Way That Won't Get You Kicked in the Face

Earlier this year I posted a Twitter tutorial on the Will Write For Cake blog, so some of what's here is a reposting of that information, but there are updates and additions here too. I shall not rest until all those who use Twitter in annoying ways repent!

Is that too lofty a goal? Ok, if I can just save one person from tweeting incessantly about their own book...

First I'll start out with how to start using Twitter if you're not even on yet, or if you're on but are still flailing around, unsure of what to do. If you've already been using Twitter and feel comfortable with it, you can skip ahead. It's ok, I won't be offended. Catch you on the flip side.

If you don’t have an account yet, go to and click the yellow “Sign Up” button. Fill out the form on the next page. You can choose whatever user name you want as long as it isn’t too long (over 20 characters) and isn’t taken, but it’s best to choose something close to your real name (or the name you use as a writer), so people will recognize you. Sure, I could use my stripper name @BubblesSunnyleather, but since most people I interact with are book people, I want to use my writer name.

Kristen Lamb has written about the importance of using your own name, like in this post; bookmark the blog while you're at it so you can go back and read everything else there later.

It’s okay to use an underscore mark, like JimBob_Writer, but don’t use any other special characters or spaces. (Some people don't like names with underscores, though, since it takes more effort to type in if they're tweeting from their phones). Twitter will walk you through a set up for selecting some followers and writing you bio. Fill in a short bio and upload a small picture. Having a bio and a picture lets people know you’re a real person they might like to follow. To edit your profile later, click your user name at the top of the page, then “Settings,” then “Profile.”

Once you have your account, you can start tweeting by typing something (up to 140 characters) in the box at the top of the page, then click “Tweet” to send it. This will show up on your followers’ pages, and anyone who visits your profile will be able to see your tweets. This is kind of like a status update on Facebook--let your followers know what you’re doing, mention a book you just read, ask a question, etc.

Retweets (RTs)
Retweeting is a way to copy what someone else said while still giving credit for it. If you see a tweet that’s funny or interesting, you may want to retweet it for your followers or for anyone who didn’t see it before. Suppose my imaginary friend @HoustonAuthor tweeted this:

Just got a 6-figure book deal! And Disney bought the movie rights! Yay!

So I want to share the good news with my followers who may not know @HoustonAuthor yet, or with those who missed it when this was tweeted hours ago. I could do this automatically by clicking the “Retweet” button just below the tweet:

That will copy the exact tweet from @HoustonAuthor, but with the RT symbol and my user name:  by LynneKelly to let my followers know this is something I've retweeted.

Or I might want to add something to it. In that case, I'll copy and paste the tweet by hand, then type my own message and an “RT” before @HoustonAuthor’s name. Then my tweet would look like this:

So now I’ve added my congratulations, and my followers know that everything after the RT refers to what @HoustonAuthor said. Also, they’ll be able to click on @HoustonAuthor’s name to see her Twitter feed if they’d like to.

An @reply is a way of saying something to a specific person, although it isn’t private. People who follow both you and the person you’re talking to will see it, as will anyone who visits your page. You can @reply someone by:
- typing @ in front of their user name
- clicking "reply" on one of their tweets
- selecting "Mention" from the tool icon in their profile

Example: @MyPretendDog You’re not sleeping on the bed, are you?

Because @ is the first character there, only people who follow both me and @mypretenddog will see that on their home pages. If I start with any other character, all my followers can see it:

.@MyPretendDog is the best dog ever.

I sure hope @MyPretendDog isn’t chewing on the couch.

Any of my followers can see that, because I didn’t start with the @. And @MyPretendDog will notice it when she checks her replies.

So don't do something like this:

@MyPretendDog is awesome and you should all follow her!

'Cause who's going to see that? People already following you and @MyPretendDog, because I started with the @. Put some other character in front of the @, or put the @username later in the sentence.

I could do this too as a way of passing along @HoustonAuthor’s good news. Instead of RTing her book deal tweet, I could write:

Congratulations to @HoustonAuthor on her awesome new book deal!

Interacting with other people is the best part of Twitter, so you want to know if people are talking to you or about you so you can reply back. You don’t want to ignore people, do you?
 At the top of the page is this bar:

By clicking on the “@Mentions” tab, you’ll see the tweets of people who mentioned you. [Update: the "Mentions" tab is not called "@Connect," but it works the same way.] When @MyPretendDog checks her replies, she’ll see the tweets that include her user name, like this one:

I sure hope @MyPretendDog isn’t chewing on the couch.

Then @MyPretendDog will probably want to answer me back:

Even if I’m not on Twitter at the moment to see it on my main page, I’ll see it whenever I check my replies. But remember, it’s not private--anyone following both of us can see that conversation. Suppose I had a cat who followed @MyPretendDog and me. @ThePretendCat noticed our conversation, and tweeted this:

@LynneKelly Hey, @MyPretendDog is sleeping on your bed. Shall I bite her for you?

Both @MyPretendDog and I will see that on our pages and under our Mentions tab, since both our user names are there.

I see quite a few Twitter feeds of people who never interact with anyone. That's ignoring the "social" part of "social media." Would you stand around at a cocktail party just talking about yourself, while ignoring people who are talking to you? No. So don't be a pinhead by doing it on Twitter.

Check your retweets now and then too--if people RT you automatically by just clicking the “Retweet” button under your tweet, you may not see that in your replies. It’s good to thank people who’ve shared one of your tweets, and checking your RTs will show you who’s done that. Click the “Retweets” tab, then “Your tweets, retweeted."

That will bring up a list of your tweets that someone else RTed. Click on the arrow on the right side of the tweet to see who RTed that. Then you can click on each of their names and send them a message if you want. @HoustonAuthor may write something like:

Thanks for the RTs about the book deal! @LynneKelly @Mydog @OtherHoustonAuthor

But what if you want to say something to a person but don’t want the whole world to see it? That’s when you use the direct message, or DM.
Again, there’s more than one way to do this. You can type by hand:

But it’s easier to click the “Message” tab on a follower’s profile:

Once you're on your Messages page, click “New Message.” Type who you want to send a DM to, then type your message in the window.

More and more lately I'm seeing people use DMs to thank people for following them, often with a link to their website or Facebook fan page. Usually it's an automatic thing they've set up to send a message to new followers. I don't know anyone who isn't annoyed by that. Don't do it.

On your Twitter page you’ll see the tweets of people you’re following. Now you know how to tweet, RT, DM, and reply, but if you’re not following anyone your page will be blank. So how do you get followers, and who do you follow? 
If you know someone’s user name, you can go to their profile by adding it to the Twitter address in the address bar, like this: From there you'll click on the green "Follow" button.

For suggestions, click the “Who to Follow” tab at the top of the page. Twitter will suggest people you might like to follow, based on who you’ve followed so far. There will also be a “Who to Follow” section on the side of your page that Twitter will update with suggestions. You can also search for someone by typing a name in the search box at the top of the page.

Another good way to find people is by checking out others’ “Following” and “Followers” lists. Find out who they like to follow and who’s following them. Once you follow someone, they may decide to follow you back. You'll do the same for your new followers--check your list now and then and see if you'd like to follow back the people who are following you. If you're not interested in following them back, you don't have to do anything, but if they're so creepy you don't even want them following you, hit "Block."

For an easy way to find editors and agents to follow, go to my profile at then click "Lists," and select the Editors-Agents list. You'll see the recent tweets from the people on that list, but on the right side of the page, click "Following" to see everyone I've added to it. (A lot of other writers or publishing people you will have similar lists.) Then check who those people are following--you'll find more people you want to follow.

It's not okay to pitch your novel or query an agent or editor via Twitter, but following them is a great way to find out what's going on in the publishing industry and with their own work; they might tweet "Finally getting to my January queries" or "I wish someone would send me a good mermaid erotica manuscript," for example. And if an agent tweets, "If I get one more manuscript about woodland creatures or wizards I'm going to throw my computer out the window," then you know to send your novel about a squirrel who goes to wizard school to someone else. Of course they also tweet about things that aren't work-related, like what's going on with their kids or pets or where they like to shop. They start to seem like real people, almost.

Look for businesses you like and follow them, too--they may tweet about specials or coupons, and a lot of companies are using Twitter as one more way to provide customer service. Check out the feeds of or Zappo's, for example. Notice how often they're responding to customers. They're watching for people who mention them, offering help to those who complain and saying thanks to those who compliment them.

You don’t have to use lists, but they’re a good way to organize your followers, especially if you’re following a lot of people. When you’re on someone’s page, click on the little arrow button to add them to a list you’ve made:

That way, you can quickly check the tweets only of the people on a certain list, like "My favorite funny people,” "Authors I like," "Friends from prison," or whatever you want to make a list for. Click on a list to weed out everybody else on the page. For more about using lists, see "How to Follow a Buttload of People If You Want to."

By typing a hashtag (#) in front of a word or phrase, people can click on that word or phrase to follow a conversation about that topic, or see what others are saying about it. Good examples are the Tuesday evening #kidlitchat and Wednesday evening #YAlitchat. People interested in children’s and young adult literature discuss that night’s topic by adding #kidlitchat or #YAlitchat to their tweets. When you click on a hashtag like #kidlitchat, a page comes up showing all the tweets with that hashtag, whether you’re following the participants or not. Even if you can’t participate in real-time, you can bring it up later to read the conversation. Either click on the hashtag in someone’s tweet or type it in the search box at the top of the page.

A popular hashtag on Fridays is #FF, for "Follow Friday," used for suggesting other users to follow. Check out the follow recommendations from people you like following, and you may find some new ones to add to your follow list.

Under "trending topics" on the right side of your home page, Twitter lists the popular topics people are talking about, and those are often hashtag phrases.

A Bit About Marketing
There were some questions about using Twitter to market yourself, but really, the best way to market yourself is to NOT actively market yourself, if that makes sense. Or at least not to look like you are. It's not interesting to follow people who tweet about their own book (or themselves in general) over and over.

Back to the cocktail party example: If someone were standing around saying, "Visit my website. Check out my book. I wrote a book; here's where you can find it. Hi, have you seen my website? Check out my book," would you be interested in looking for their book? No, you'd be interested in stabbing them with an olive fork. So don't do that on Twitter. It's a way to get quickly unfollowed and possibly reported for spam, if you're sending unsolicited @replies to people to tell them about your book.

Users who have a lot of followers are those who interact with others and are funny, helpful, supportive, entertaining, or otherwise interesting. For users who tweet about all kinds of stuff and interact with their followers, I celebrate with them when they tweet, "Hey, I just got a book deal!" because I feel like I already know them. And I'll probably look for that book when it comes out. I'll give a couple popular authors on Twitter as examples (please share your favorites in the comments--there are so many great authors on Twitter.

Look how many followers Maureen Johnson has. She didn't get many by talking about her books. Notice how many of her tweets show her interacting with those followers. (When she has a phrase in quotes with someone's user name, that's her way of RTing a question or comment to her, then she'll type her answer after that.) Whenever she does mention a new release or other good news about her books, it doesn't bother anyone because that's not what her twitter feed is about. It's about her being herself and having fun talking to people about whatever's going on with her (or her weird neighbors). I'm not saying you have to tweet as much as she does--she's obviously a vampire who needs no sleep, or she has a well-trained army of monkeys to do her work for her. Tweet as little or as much as you're comfortable with, but remember to be yourself and get to know people.

Libba Bray is another great example of a funny/interesting/nice/wacky person to follow. You'll notice she too has a good balance of tweets, retweets, and replies in her feed. (She'd probably say that she's not well-balanced otherwise.)

Follow Cynthia Leitich Smith because she knows everyone and everything. Great links to author/agent/editor interviews and articles about the publishing industry, and she's super-supportive of other authors.

The Writer's Digest article listed below goes more in depth into social networking and book sales.

You can do everything on Twitter straight from the web page, but there are applications you can download to make it easier to organize and follow. Tweetdeck, for example (downloaded from organizes your lists, replies, and hashtags you’re following into columns, automatically shortens web page addresses, and makes it easy to add pictures to your tweets.

See these excellent articles for more information:

Nathan Bransford's post about how to use Twitter
Twitter Tips For Writers
Mom, This Is How Twitter Works (Not Just For Moms!)
Don't Tweet That: How Not To Be A Twitter Dork (includes easy fixes)
Jay Kristoff's Ten Reasons You Can Follow THIS

Still have questions? Send me an @reply on Twitter. Like this: